My old Laptop finally reached its end, too slow. Looked into building a new PC but found a good enough PC: cheap, quiet, and not slow.
I was going to document how to install the new hard drive. I saw a few pleas on the web on how to do this with this particular system; if it is even possible? Of course, the PC’s manual is useless and there is no info on the motherboard being used. But, the new hard drive I put in did not work on first try! Was it DOA? Does this board or OS require complexity?
The HP Pavilion P6230y is nothing to write home about, but was certainly inexpensive and much lower then any build your own I was considering. Its lowest Windows Experience Index is a measly 4.5 due to its onboard graphics that shares system memory, and with a Power Supply of just 400W cannot accommodate a gaming graphics card. Nevertheless, so far I have not experienced any lack of power. The AMD Phenom II X4 810/2.6 GHz quad processor and 8 GB RAM is enough to multitask to my hearts content.
The best part of this PC is that it is quiet. Very quiet. And, the Hard Drives it now has, contrary to people’s reviews on some hardware sites is quiet too.
BTW, why don’t hardware review sites list the noise from any system under review?
Anyway, the built in Windows 7 backup has a hard time backing up to my NAS, an old noisy Infrant X6. I backup to an external USB drive, but to be doubly safe I wanted to install a second hard drive to mirror the primary. Supposedly, Windows 7 can do software based mirroring.
Mirroring or RAID
Why mirror and not RAID? RAID is not really all that safe. Sure the data is ‘safer’, but the data is now hidden in the RAID format, and if you lose the controller, its gone (no guarantee that RAID volumes can migrate to a new controller).
Furthermore, you can’t take a RAID volume and use it directly in another non-RAID system. Not sure if this is also true for RAID1, mirroring. Todo!
Anyway, software RAID will be much bigger as systems get more powerful. Here is a recent article on Intel’s allowing this much easier.
The New Drive
Buying a hard drive is not easy. Which is the best or most reliable? Reading the opinions can be confusing. I read some reviews and searched the web for the definitive assessment. There isn’t any. So, I just settled on one after I hope was my filtering of bogus opinions.
The primary hard drive in this PC is a ST3750528AS Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 SATA 3GB/s 750GB Hard Drive. The new hard drive is a Western Digital Caviar Black WD1001FALS-00E3A0 which is 1TB 32MB Cache SATA at 3GB/s. This drive sells for about $99.00 Bare Drive, amazing! I also needed the SATA cable and just in case, another power supply cable Y-connector. I bought two SATA cables that were on sale.
Installing the new drive was easy. You just need a lot of light and some manual dexterity to align the cables and gently but firmly get everything attached. The PC case already has a slot for a second drive though you’ll need to purchase or scrounge for the screws to attach it to the cage.
I installed the drive, now the smoke test….
Nothing. The drive was not detected when I booted the PC. Nothing in the BIOS screens. Is the drive DOA? No ……. ! Should I have listened to the reviews on NewEgg?
Fortunately, I am no stranger to hardware and so started my troubleshooting of the issue. There were a few easy possibilities:
- BIOS settings
- Drive DOA
- Drive dip switches
- Windows configuration
- Power supply cable
- SATA cable
I booted the PC and got into the BIOS settings (I thought BIOS was history on PCs?). Nothing I could decipher that had relevance. There was stuff about the built-in RAID, but did not seem relevant. Plus, some inscrutable settings. Well, BIOS screens have not improved in the years since I last built my own homebrew (years ago).
Looked at the jumper pins on the drive. According to the drive case docs and the WD web site, no changes were required.
The Windows 7 sites said the BIOS must detect the drive before Windows can do anything with it. Makes sense, that’s how I thought it should work.
So maybe the power cable was bad? Put my Fluke Multimeter on it. Had the voltages. Just in case, I took another cable coming from the PC case’s power supply, but still nothing. Maybe its the SATA cable?
Switched the SATA cable (I bought two). Nothing.
That leaves me with the only possibility that the drive is just defective. One last test. I took an external SATA enclosure I have, took out its hard drive, and plugged in the new one. It works! Now what?
I doubt its the power supply so maybe its the cable or the cheap motherboard really doesn’t support more drives. I doubt a MB could be that cheap, especially since it has so many SATA ports. But, I switched SATA cables, could two SATA cables be bad? Ah, I know, I switched cables on the old working drive with the new cable, and the old drive stopped working!
How frustrating! Its Sunday, but maybe I can find a cable in a bricks and mortar shop, like Staples. They don’t have it, the local Radio Shack either. Another store has it and it’s about $10.00. The two cheap SATA cables I bought on line were about $2.00 each. They have the Gigaware SATA cable and it works. Lesson: Don’t buy cheap junk.
I was planning to make this post a howto for this type of PC, but the SATA cable issue ruined it. Now I don’t have the screen captures and the optimal steps.
Did I use Windows Active Drives to sidestep RAID1? Nope. Did a bunch of searching on this and it does not look reliable. The PC comes with RAID already, but no documentation. So, I still have not created the target configuration. Needs more work.